Over the back end of last week, Marquette men’s basketball announced the jersey numbers for the new guys on the team for the 2022-23 season. There’s also a couple of announcements of new numbers for returning guys, so we’ll bring you up to speed on those as we go. In fact, the very last one that we’ll be talking about is actually a somewhat newsworthy number change, as it marks the first time that Marquette is apparently unretiring a number.
Let’s go in chronological order as the team announced them all on Twitter.
Chase Ross — #5
The Texas native has elected to pick up where Greg Elliott has left off with #5. There’s been someone wearing #5 for the Golden Eagles in every season but one since 2000-01, which is pretty impressive from a historical perspective. #5 was worn three times between the mid 1930s and the end of World War II, but then it went on hiatus until Chris Crawford picked it back up in 1993. Nearly 50 years without a #5 on the roster!
Crawford seems to be the easy pick as the best #5 in Marquette history, and Junior Cadougan would seem to be the best option as the guy coming up in Crawford’s rearview mirror in that contest. Scott Merritt and Jajuan Johnson were both quality #5s in their time, as was the aforementioned Mr. Elliott.
Ben Gold — #21
Traci Carter was the last #21 to wear the jersey for more than one season as it has gone from Harry Froling to Joseph Chartouny to D.J. Carton before Brown took it up last season. In fact, Terry Reason was the last #21 to keep it for four seasons, and that was waaaaaay back in the early 1980s.
If there’s some old timers out there that want to argue about it, I’ll listen, but I’m pretty sure Ulice Payne is the best player to wear #21 in MU history. I’ll put it another way: There’s a real argument that Traci Carter is #2, and a real chance that Ben Gold could turn himself into the best #21 by the time things are said and done.
Cameron Brown — #55
Okay, so this one isn’t for a newcomer, as Brown was on the team last year as a walk-on. I don’t know exactly what the negotiations were to get him to move off of his #21 to give it to ben Gold were, but something happened to make that happen.
In any case, Brown has elected to occupy a very unused number relative to Marquette history. Only eight men have ever worn #55 for MU, and only two — Youssoupha Mbao and Jose Perez — have done so since Robert Jackson wore it during the Golden Eagles’ Final Four year in 2002-03. Mike Moran was the first guy to ever wear #55 for Marquette, holding it for the 1956-57 season, when he led the team in scoring at 20.4 points per game. Moran ended up as MU’s third ever NBA Draft pick, going #47 overall to the St. Louis Hawks. As you can guess from where I’m going here, Moran set a very high bar for “Best Guy To Wear The Number” right out of the gate, as he’s even now #21 all-time in scoring and #18 in rebounding.
Zach Wrightsil — #10
There will be a #10 on the active Marquette roster again this fall, as there has been in every season since 2016-17. It went from Sam Hauser to Symir Torrence to Justin Lewis, and the departure of Lewis to the NBA Draft after his sophomore season has opened it up for Wrightsil to wear for his only year at Marquette.
The history of #10 at Marquette is a weird one, as it wasn’t used at all until Richard Collentine picked it up in 1941. Kenneth Weisner had it for the 1944-45 campaign..... and then no one wore it at all until Barry Brennan in 1973-74. There’s a story about this somewhere, whether it’s NCAA rule related or whatever, but I’m fascinated by what caused numbers to effectively disappear for three decades.
Anyway, it’s been a pretty popular number for Marquette since the mid-70s, although there has also been a long history of not that many guys having it for a full four year career. With that said, it’s going to be pretty hard for anyone to anyone to knock down Tony Miller as the best #10 in Marquette history. Miller had 956 career assists in his four year MU career, and there’s a 300+ gap between him and second best, which is Dominic James at 632.
Both Cordell Henry and Travis Diener have quality points to be made in the “Great #10’s” discussion, but they lose strength in the argument because both men only wore the number for one season before switching to something different for the rest of their career. If Lewis latches on with an NBA team, he’ll become the third player out of the last four to wear #10 for Marquette and end up in The Association, joining Juan Toscano-Anderson and Sam Hauser.
Sean Jones — #22
You might remember #22 from last season, when you saw it on Tyler Kolek. We’ll get into that in a minute.
In any case, #22 has a long and storied history at Marquette, even though it was only worn twice before 1970. Jim Chones picked it up that year, and he set a gigantic bar that would be pretty much impossible for anyone to clear ever again. In just 50 career games before Al McGuire pushed him out the door to get that ABA paycheck, Chones averaged 19.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He’s still #4 all time in scoring and rebounding average and #28 all time in total rebounds. In less than two seasons! And yet, the very next guy to wear it was Lloyd Walton, who can easily be described as an all-time great in program history.
Also wearing #22: Dwayne Johnson, the team’s leading scorer in 1983-84 and currently #46 all time in scoring; William Gates, who is admittedly more famous for Hoop Dreams than his accomplishments on the court at MU but still; Brian Wardle, currently #8 all time in scoring; Jerel McNeal, currently #2 all time in scoring and the guy who actually broke George Thompson’s scoring record after it stood for 40 seasons; and Trent Lockett, who was only at MU for one season but played a major role on MU’s only Big East regular season champion and the program’s most recent Elite Eight team.
Anyway, the point of the story is that if Sean Jones manages to figure out how to become the best #22 in program history, then we’re just never going to stop talking about him ever again.
Tyler Kolek — #11
Again, like Cameron Brown, this isn’t a new guy on the team, just a new number on a returning guy. Also like Cameron Brown, Kolek is opting for a number that not many guys on the team have worn in the past. We’ll circle back to the reason why.
Dave Quabius was the first #11 in MU hoops history, adopting the digits in 1938. Ray Eckstein — yes, THAT Ray Eckstein — was the second guy in the mid-1940s, and then it was in regular usage from 1955 all the way through the late 1960s when Pat Smith wore it. Yes, THAT Pat Smith, the one that Ray Meyer accused of not being able to throw a ball into the water while standing on the beach.
Smith was the last MU player to wear #11..... because Marquette retired the number to honor the crew of Apollo 11. Now, this also led to a really neat patch on the warmups to also pay tribute to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, so I’m not going to say it was a bad idea.
However, it was a weird idea, although when you contrast it against “Marquette invented the Pere Marquette Discovery Award just to honor the crew of Apollo 11,” it’s not the weirdest idea that Marquette had on the topic. However, the number has remained retired since 1970 up until now. It’s worth noting, by the way, that when Al McGuire decided to retire #11 for the Apollo crew, the only players with a current retired number that had finished their Marquette career were George Thompson, who had just wrapped up his time at MU in spring of 1969, and Don Kojis, who played from 1958-1961. The point being: I’m pretty sure that #11 was the first number Marquette ever retired.
But now that we’re sitting here 52 years later and there are eight numbers retired for nine players.... and the NCAA only allows you to pick from a selection of 36 numbers to wear.... keeping a ninth number out of circulation out of respect for the Apollo crew is a little weird. There’s only 24 numbers to choose from with the eight player retirements, which means you’re really limiting incoming players to choose from 14 or so numbers every year. Yeah, that’s a wide selection when you’re talking about three or four guys picking from the group... but keeping #11 out of usage at the same time is kind of unnecessary. If Kolek wants to wear it, I’ve got no problem with Marquette officially bringing it out of mothballs and keeping it there.
After all, I’m the guy who thinks we should only retire Butch Lee’s #15 because of his National Player of the Year trophy. Everyone else gets some sort of honor for their number, and that opens up the door to honoring Ray Morstadt and Ed Mullen, who are tied for being the first MU All-American as two different organizations tabbed them in 1934, or both Jim Chones and Jerel McNeal, as MU can’t really justify retiring #22 for either of them with so many numbers already on ice.